I’ve been an aviation buff since childhood.  My father loved to travel, so I have many fond memories of family travels on prop-liners and jet-liners of the time: DC-3’s, DC-7’s, the Lockheed Electra, 707’s and DC-8’s. I enlisted in the Air Force right out of High School, spent time in Southeast Asia, flew on the military charters and military aircraft.  To this day I subscribe to Aviation Week and Space Technology.  And I am very interested in aviation accident investigation – the links of the chain of an accident…take one link from the chain and the accident doesn’t happen.

An article I read today detailed a corporate jet that took off with it’s controls locked – and crashed in flames killing everyone on board.  The pilots simply failed to go through the required checklists before each step of preparing the aircraft for engine start, taxi, and takeoff.  The author of the article made a direct reference to the responsibility of the instructor, that your training is only as good as your instructor.

Since many referee instructors are also assessors, we are always paying attention to how a match is being officiated, being managed, whether we are a part of the officiating team, or a mere spectator.  How often do we ask ourselves:  Why no call there?  Why no enforcement of the required distance?  Why positioned there?  Why no chat with the offender on that hard foul?  Why no caution?

Yes, there are referees who take the entry-level course and that is the extent of their training for the remainder of their officiating career – a scary thought.

The article I read today, authored by James Albright of Aviation Week, specifically addressed that pilots, throughout their career, learn Standard Operating Procedures, SOP’s so to speak, and that pilots, on occasion may find themselves having to skip or alter an SOP, for safety reasons.  And I started thinking – Referees, too, have SOPs in the form of The Laws of the Game (LOTG) and there are times because of The Spirit of the Game, that referees  alter or skip the LOTG to accommodate the The Spirit of the Game.  Referees can make a decision that, at the time, seemed prudent.  But on reflection, have these decisions just been laziness or an error in judgment?

Yes, referees do make mistakes.  I am still waiting for my perfect game.  The training and education of referees is designed to prevent or mitigate those mistakes before they become harmful to the players and The Spirit of the Game.  We instructors are there to minimize deviations.  However, if those deviations become frequent, there is a tendency to accept them as the new norm, to lower our standards and blur the distinction between what is acceptable and what is not.  And thus the normalization of deviance.  So, Referee Instructors,  consider the following guideposts when you instruct referees, whether they be new and inexperienced or seasoned by a number of matches under their belt.

TRAIN TO A STANDARD – A soccer official’s training is only as good as their instructor.  When the instructor has given in to deviant behavior such as cutting corners, or who has misguided ideas of what should or should not be taught, deviations may occur.

IMPROVE AND BROADEN YOUR PEER GROUP – Be that referee who adheres to the LOTG, best practices, and The Spirit of the Game.  Others will take notice.

LEARN HUMILITY – When we assign the title of “expert” to an instructor, assessor, or referee, we recognize that person for a skill gained from training and experience.  We also imply that the expert will be more objective than a non-expert and will be better armed against the normalization of deviance.  But with experience comes confidence – in some cases to the extreme.  Over-confidence and arrogance can be cojoined.  The antonym for arrogance is humility.  A humble referee, referee instructor, assessor, realizes that even the best referees make mistakes and that one’s guard can never be lowered, even when the title of “expert” has been rightfully earned.

-A tip of the hat to James Albright





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